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SEC Fearless Predictions, Oct. 25, Part 2
Tennessee S Eric Berry
Tennessee S Eric Berry
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 22, 2008


Previews and Predictions for the Week 9 SEC, Part 2

SEC
East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

- SEC Fearless Predictions Aug. 30 | Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20
- Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18

How are the picks so far? SU: 38-13 ... ATS: 18-25

- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Oct. 25, Part 1

Saturday, October 25

Ole Miss (3-4) at Arkansas (3-4), 7:00 EST GamePlan
Why to watch: Normally a head coach facing his former team, especially when he’s just a few months removed from being in charge at the old place, he has a distinct advantage. That’s not quite the case this week as Ole Miss head man Houston Nutt probably won’t recognize his old Arkansas team. Gone are Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, along with the devastating running game, at least the way it was run under the Nutt regime, and in is the Bobby Petrino-led attack that relies more on the pass than it ever did under Nutt. However, the overall improvement in play for Arkansas has come with the emergence of RB Michael Smith, as he has led the way to a win over Auburn and a heartbreaking loss last week at Kentucky. Each of these teams are in rebuilding mode, but the winner will have the inside track to a bowl game while the loser will have a nightmare of a time trying to come up with the three wins needed to become eligible.
Why Ole Miss might win: Smith isn’t 100%. The new Hog star who has rushed for 791 yards and five touchdowns on the year, and ripped off 176 yards against Auburn and 192 against Kentucky, suffered a concussion and will be limited if he’s able to play. The Ole Miss defensive front might be having a few injury problems, but it’s more than good enough to get to Casey Dick on a regular basis if Smith isn’t pulling off the same magic he did over the last three weeks. Ole Miss beat Florida and last week pushed Alabama to the wall. Arkansas wasn’t even close against Alabama or Texas getting blown out by both by a total score of 101 to 24.
Why Arkansas might win: The defense has stepped up against the run in a big way over the last few weeks. After getting ripped up for over 800 rushing yards over a three game span, the Hogs rebounded to hold Auburn to 56 yards and Kentucky to 88. The defensive front has become more aggressive, and the linebacking corps that was so young and so inexperienced to start the season is starting to grow up. The overall tackling has been better, too.
Who to watch: Casey Dick has had to carry more of the workload this year, but his burdened has been lightened by the emergence of Smith. However, that didn’t matter much last week as Dick completed just 11-of-29 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Kentucky as he struggled to handle the steady Wildcat pass rush. The big problem has been interceptions with five over the last three games and eight over the last five. He has to be stingy this week, and he can’t buckle under the pressure from the Ole Miss defensive front.
What will happen: The Ole Miss lines will be better than the Arkansas lines, while Smith won’t be able to be the workhorse he’s been over the last few weeks.
CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 26 … Arkansas 20 … Line:  Ole Miss -4.5
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 2.5
 
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Middle Tennessee (2-5) at Mississippi State (2-5), 7:00 EST ESPNU
Why to watch: Middle Tennessee is good at being really, really annoying. It beat Maryland in an upset that looks far more stunning now than it did in early September, and it came within a shoestring tackle of beating Kentucky on a Hail Mary. Over the years, the Blue Raiders have been able to rise up and pull off the occasional upset, but this year, it’s having a hard time dealing with their own conference going 1-3 in Sun Belt play while losing four of their last five games. Mississippi State needs to start winning and winning quickly to be in the hunt for a bowl game. There are winnable games against Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss to potentially help the cause, but there’s also a road trip to Alabama. This is supposed to be an easy week, but for an offense that’s having a nightmare of a time scoring, this could be closer than Bulldog fans might like.
Why Middle Tennessee might win: Mississippi State’s offense just isn’t working. Take away the 34 points over SE Louisiana, an FCS team, and the Bulldog attack is averaging just 11 points per game scoring seven points or fewer in three of the last five games. Turnovers are a problem, but more than anything else, there’s nothing the attack can rely on. The offensive line is struggling, while the Middle Tennessee defensive front is just good enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis.
Why Mississippi State might win: It’s not like Middle Tennessee’s offense is lighting up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree. The Blue Raiders have been steady, but not explosive, averaging a mere 18 points per game. The running game is non-existent, averaging just 87 yards per outing, while relying just on the passing game. That plays right into MSU’s strength, the pass defense. The Bulldog secondary is doing what it can, allowing a mere 138 yards per game.
Who to watch: MSU is going to fight through the growing pains of QB Tyson Lee. He wasn’t great over the course of the season, but he hadn’t thrown an interception and hadn’t rushed for a score. And then came the Tennessee game when everything fell apart. Lee threw three interceptions, suffered a knee injury, and generally couldn’t handle the Vol defense. He’ll play with a brace and will try to gut it out this week.
What will happen: First one to score wins? It’ll be a low-scoring, close battle with Mississippi State’s defense shutting down the Middle Tennessee offense cold.  
CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 20 … Middle Tennessee 14 … Line:  Mississippi State -11.5
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 2
 
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Alabama (7-0) at Tennessee (3-4), 7:45 EST ESPN
Why to watch: Alabama – Auburn is the SEC’s nastiest rivalry, Florida – Georgia might be the most spirited (it is, after all, a cocktail party), and Florida – Tennessee, LSU – Auburn, and several others have their charm. However, Alabama – Tennessee has an old school battle feel. The fan bases don’t like each other, and while this might not be a captivating rivalry on a national scale, in the SEC world, this is just about as big as it gets. It’s made even bigger this year by the polar opposite fortunes for each big name program. Alabama is the hot story of the SEC season, currently ranking second in the BCS and with its destiny in its own hands. However, it was shaky in wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss, needing to hold on in each game. After getting outscored 30-10 in the second half against Georgia, the Tide needs to prove it can put together a full four quarters. On the flip side, Tennessee’s 34-3 win over Mississippi State glossed over a floundering season with little offense and tough losses to UCLA, Auburn and Georgia. The defense has been tremendous and the special teams have been decent. If it all comes together and the Vols pull off the upset, that might not only get head coach Phil Fulmer off the hot seat, but it would change the season around nationally, in the SEC, and for Tennessee.
Why Alabama might win: Don’t let the 34-3 win over Mississippi State win last week fool you; Tennessee got two interception returns for touchdowns. The offense wasn’t anything special and it isn’t going to suddenly find itself this week against a Tide defense that isn’t giving up a thing against the run and isn’t awful against the pass. Tennessee doesn’t have the attack that can put up big numbers in bunches, so if the Tide can get a few early points, it shouldn’t have a problem going through the motions and hanging on. The Vols don’t have the ability to pull off a fourth quarter comeback.
Why Tennessee might win: The Alabama offensive like is starting to show some chinks in the armor. Kentucky’s defensive front was able to force several mistakes, while the Ole Miss front four controlled most of the second half last week and held the Tide to 107 yards. The Alabama offense needs to get the running game going, and it has to hit on the big pass play. Even with all the Vols’ problems, the Tennessee run defense has been fantastic allowing just 96 yards per game while it’s generating enough pressure to rush QB John Parker Wilson.
Who to watch: This will be a tremendous showcase for great safety play. The Tennessee combination of Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley is being considered among the best in team history. Each had a pick six last week against Mississippi State, and each can hit. Berry has been the better of the two, leading the nation with five interceptions to go along with 44 tackles, while Morley is a big-time playmaker. For Alabama, Rashad Johnson isn’t having the season he had last year, but he’s been a steady star. He’s currently second on the team with 39 tackles with an interception. He should be all over the field this week.
What will happen: Tennessee will show some fight. The defense will help pave the way for a few scores by giving the offense a short field to work with, but the Tide will come through with a strong second half for the first time in a long time to escape with a nasty, tough win.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 23 … Tennessee 14 … Line:  Alabama -6
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 4
 
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- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Oct. 25, Part 1